D.C., Mary­land sue Trump for main­tain­ing his busi­ness ties

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE Staff writer S.A. Miller con­trib­uted to this re­port.

The at­tor­neys gen­eral of Mary­land and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ac­cused Pres­i­dent Trump in a law­suit filed Mon­day of vi­o­lat­ing anti-cor­rup­tion laws through his own­er­ship of com­pa­nies that have ac­cepted mil­lions of dol­lars from for­eign gov­ern­ments dur­ing his time in of­fice.

The pres­i­dent’s con­tin­ued own­er­ship in­ter­est in a global busi­ness em­pire “ren­ders him deeply en­meshed with a le­gion of for­eign and do­mes­tic gov­ern­ment ac­tors, vi­o­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion and calls into ques­tion the rule of law and the in­tegrity of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem,” the law­suit states.

Dis­trict of Columbia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Karl Racine said le­gal ac­tion was needed be­cause “tra­di­tional checks and bal­ances are fail­ing us.”

The suit, filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Mary­land, al­leges the pres­i­dent has bro­ken two “emol­u­ments” clauses of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion — which ban fed­eral of­fi­cials from ac­cept­ing gifts from for­eign gov­ern­ments and the pres­i­dent from ac­cept­ing ben­e­fits other than a salary from fed­eral or state gov­ern­ments while in of­fice.

Though the law­suit notes Mr. Trump pre­vi­ously said he was turn­ing the lead­er­ship and man­age­ment of the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion over to his sons — Eric Trump and Don­ald Trump Jr. — it states that the plan “did not in­clude re­lin­quish­ing own­er­ship of his busi­nesses or es­tab­lish­ing a blind trust.”

Be­cause Mr. Trump con­tin­ues to profit from those busi­nesses, the law­suit claims that Amer­i­cans are left un­cer­tain whether the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sions “are driven solely by un­yield­ing loy­alty to the coun­try’s best in­ter­ests, or rather are af­fected by self-in­ter­ested mo­ti­va­tions grounded in the in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic busi­ness deal­ings in which Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal for­tune is at stake.”

The law­suit ac­cuses Mr. Trump of us­ing his po­si­tion as pres­i­dent to bol­ster pa­tron­age at his var­i­ous busi­nesses, in­clud­ing ho­tels, res­tau­rants and golf clubs.

“We know ex­actly what is go­ing on ev­ery sin­gle day,” said Mr. Racine, ref­er­enc­ing the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton. “For­eign gov­ern­ments are spend­ing money there in or­der to curry fa­vor with the pres­i­dent of the United States.”

The White House shrugged off the law­suit, say­ing it was a par­ti­san at­tack.

“It’s not hard to con­clude that par­ti­san pol­i­tics may be one of the mo­ti­va­tions be­hind the suit,” said White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer. “We’ll move to dis­miss this case in the nor­mal course of busi­ness.”

Al­though both Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh and Mr. Racine are Democrats, they said the law­suit was not a par­ti­san ac­tion.

“We do not sue the pres­i­dent of the United States ca­su­ally,” Mr. Frosh said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the law­suit. “It’s un­prece­dented that the Amer­i­can peo­ple must ques­tion day af­ter day if ac­tions are taken to ben­e­fit the United States or to ben­e­fit Don­ald Trump.”

The law­suit cites sev­eral ex­am­ples of al­leged emol­u­ments vi­o­la­tions, nam­ing a list of for­eign diplo­mats and of­fi­cials who have stayed at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in the Dis­trict and Mr. Trump’s con­tin­ued re­liance on his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida as the “win­ter White House,” where he has trav­eled rou­tinely while in of­fice and hosted for­eign lead­ers.

The club hiked its ini­tial mem­ber­ship fees af­ter the pres­i­dent’s elec­tion from $100,000 to $200,000. Room rates at the D.C. ho­tel have also sky­rock­eted.

The law­suit also al­leges that China’s is­suance of a trade­mark to the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion counts as a gift to the pres­i­dent, not­ing that Mr. Trump had sought a trade­mark in China for his busi­ness in­ter­ests for 10 years be­fore one was granted this year.

The trade­mark award came af­ter Mr. Trump pub­licly ques­tioned the “one China” pol­icy, un­der which Wash­ing­ton ac­cepts Bei­jing’s stance that there is only one China and Tai­wan is part of it. Mr. Trump later af­firmed U.S. com­mit­ment to that po­si­tion.

As part of the law­suit, Mr. Frosh and Mr. Racine said they would be seek­ing Mr. Trump’s fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing tax re­turns he has thus far de­clined to pub­licly dis­close.

The at­tor­neys gen­eral said they are seek­ing a declara­tory judg­ment rul­ing that Mr. Trump vi­o­lated the Con­sti­tu­tion and an or­der en­join­ing him from vi­o­lat­ing the law. Mr. Frosh said it was up to the courts to de­cide what sort of lim­its could be im­posed.

“If the court says you can’t both run th­ese busi­nesses with all th­ese en­tan­gle­ments … you can’t con­tinue to do that and con­tinue to be pres­i­dent, then he will have to choose,” Mr. Frosh said.

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee called the law­suit “ab­surd.”

“From day one, Pres­i­dent Trump has been com­mit­ted to com­plete trans­parency and com­pli­ance with the law,” said RNC spokesman Lind­say Jancek. “The ac­tions of the at­tor­neys gen­eral rep­re­sent the kind of par­ti­san grand­stand­ing vot­ers across the coun­try have come to de­spise.” ●

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dis­trict of Columbia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Karl Racine (right) and Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh filed a law­suit say­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump’s leases, prop­er­ties and other busi­ness “en­tan­gle­ments” pose a con­flict of in­ter­est un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.

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